Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Murphy's Law and a Recent Commute

Between Monday and today I've had interesting commutes to say the least.  On Monday, always a "fun" day, I rode to work with relatively little fuss.  I grabbed a hold of Victoria, which for those of you who don't know, she is my bicycle, and insisted on taking off with next to nothing besides a lock and a plastic-coated cable.  The ride to work was a pleasure.  That evening though, my son had to high school open houses to attend within an hour of each other--an impossibility given the time and space involved.  My wife figured she'd cover one on her way to class--she goes to college at night--and I would take him to the school he has expressed a preference for.  I left work early to make the event, but when I arrived at my bicycle I found I had a flat.

Flats, the story of my bicycle commuting life, but admittedly very easy to fix--if you have a few basic items on hand, which I did not.  However, at the time I did not bat an eye, I simply took the bike with me into the subway.  I wound up waiting for the "R" train for about a half hour--very frustrating!  It wasn't over yet, though.  The "R" finally came, which I only needed to get to the "Q" or "N" train at 14th Street and that connection was flawless.  However, further trouble was in store, chugged along at slothful pace and then stopped between 59 Street and Queensboro Plaza.  It just sat there.  I happened to be in the front car and I could hear the train operator communicating back and forth with the dispatchers and while most of it sounded like jibberish, the tone was one of concern.  We sat there at least twenty minutes and finally we riders in the front discerned that there was a broken track ahead and the train was going back to 59th Street.  Meanwhile, I had to stay calm and fight that claustrophobic feeling--another reason I prefer biking--which sets upon me at moments like this.  I never liked tight spaces, but after 9-11 I don't take being "trapped" well and I never assume I am safe.  I don't flip out, it just takes some effort to maintain composure. 

The train operator made the announcement over the PA system and then proceeded to exit the front and head to the back, which now would be the new front as we went backwards to 59th Street.  I cannot say how relieved I was to reach 59th Street and get off the train.  Time, however, was ticking away and I could not afford the conveniece of one emotion--I was getting antsy as I realized that the window of opportunity was closing on that high school open house, which was required for my son being considered for the school.  I wasn't going back underground, that was a given.  I decided to try and find a source of air for my tire and try making it across the Queensborough Bridge.  This is a challenge in midtown though, where there are few gas stations.  I decided to throw myself on the mercy of the parking garages and I finally found one that had an air compressor and was willing to help me out.  Now the question is whether the inner tube would hold air long enough to get me across the bridge.  I wasn't going to tarry.  I booked across that bridge as fast as I could.  Not only did it hold air long enough to get across the bridge, but it got me all the way home. 

I was running late, so I gathered the boy and took in my car to try and make the event.  Unfortunately, the area is very congested, as it leads to the Queensborough Bridge (yes, the same one I just crossed) and it happens that I got caught in a traffic pattern that forced me (no outlet) back across the bridge!  It was quite maddening, as well as disconcerting.  I let loose a few choice words as I drove across the bridge and tried to figure out if the situation was salvageable.  There were only minutes left.  Surprisingly, I spotted an auxiliary outer lane to the bridge with rather light traffic going in the direction I wanted and I was able to guess accurately how to get to it.  I was back across the bridge in record time for any time of day!  I actually found parking and we ran for it.  Luckily, we made it in time for the end of the Q&A and I got to ask the question I really came there to ask and my son was able to fill out and submit the required paper work.  Mission accomplished! 

The moral of the story?  I don't know.  Life is unpredictable.  Freedom is nice, but sometimes it entails carrying a wrench, an air pump and a patch kit.